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Vol. 28, No. 4: Moral/Economies

Moral / Economies

Vol. 28, No. 4  //  winter 2022

The Moral/Economies issue asks what is ownable, who owns, who owes, who makes, who takes, what is work, what is worth? What is a fair price, and who pays it? Is a given transaction a theft, a trade, a gift? If the arid abstraction of “economics” relentlessly flattens this complexity into two dimensions, the notion of “moral economy” demands, in the words of historian Nell Irvin Painter, “a fully loaded cost accounting” that considers the true price of any exchange—free, coerced, or somewhere in between.

Table of Contents

And the Devil Take the Hindmost

by Bethany Moreton, Pamela Voekel
“America is Mississippi,” Malcolm X asserted in 1964, as he appeared in Harlem alongside Fannie Lou Hamer. “There’s no such thing as the South—it’s America.” Over the summer and fall of 2022, as this issue of Southern Cultures took shape, Mississippi produced an extraordinary archive of moral manifestos that echoed this conflation of the state »

Lights Out

by Alex Beasley
“At every turn, those of us withstanding the storm were expected to act as though what we were up against was scarcity while the evidence of our abundance was plain to see.” I have a scrap of paper I’ve kept, perhaps perversely, for over a year now. It’s an inventory of all the water I »

Why Is Wealth White?

by Julia Ott
In the United States, why is wealth—especially financial wealth—held by white households so disproportionately and, in particular, by the most affluent ones? Racial wealth inequality is no accident of history. Rather, it is the intended result of the southern Democrats in Congress who controlled federal tax policy throughout most of the twentieth century. Beginning in »

“Heavy with Plenty”

Writing Abundance in the Plantationocene

by Donald Mayfield Brown, Brian Williams
“Black southern literature is one of the few places where one can find resistance and survival articulated on Black southerners’ own terms.” William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (1936) tells a history of the Deep South through the lens of an enslaver named Thomas Sutpen. Faulkner’s fictional protagonist grew up in the early 1800s as a dirt-poor »

Catchin’ Strays

On Pet Negroes, the Black Domestic, and the Politics of Comfort

by Jordan Taliha McDonald
In her 1943 essay for The American Mercury, “The ‘Pet Negro’ System,” writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston transforms the literary genre of the journal article, discomfiting its traditionally genteel form with the exuberant and colorful rhetorical punches of the Black political pulpit. Staging a community callout embedded in southern specificity in a northern publication, »

Los Autobuses del Sur

Mexican Migrant Routes and Economies in the US South

by Iliana Yamileth Rodriguez
“The migration practices of my family (which mirrored that of other compatriots) between Mexico, Texas, and Georgia in the 1990s illustrate the entanglement of labor and familial migrations with a regional expansion of ethnic migrant economies.” Houston, Texas, was my parents’ first home in the US South. My father was born in the Mexican state of »
credit: Ben Shahn

The Promotora System

Community Care and Indigenous Women’s Organizing in Mississippi

by Espiva X., Manuela X., Lorena Quiroz, The Mississippi Freedom Writers
“When the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity came along, we got the chance to work together and ensure our voices were heard, just like our precedents who fought for our freedom and our rights.” Early August in Mississippi is typically characterized by a flood of students returning to crowded hallways and heavily air-conditioned classrooms. »

New Denim City

by Michelle Crouch
Vidalia Mills had only been up and running for about a year when Eric Goldstein went on his quest. As soon as he’d confirmed that the demolition company was in possession of what he was looking for—that the machines hadn’t been destroyed after all—he flew from New York City to Greensboro, North Carolina, that same »

Filmmaking as a Classroom

A Documentary Practice for the Climate Crisis

by Kira Akerman
Annabelle (18), Mekenzie (18), and Tanielma (17) stand at the edge of Island Road in Terrebonne Parish, the part of Louisiana’s coast that remains barely above the sea, watching as two excavators move dirt to build berms that might protect the land. When a storm blows from the west, or the east, the wind pushes »

Back Porch: Moral/Economies

by Tom Rankin
“The top of it is all we can see most of the time, but any true understanding of what we’re viewing tells us there is much, much more beneath the known surface, the still waters.” In October 2016, my wife, Jill McCorkle, and I drove our Tacoma pickup filled with cases of bottled water and »

War Supply

by Ina Cariño
there are different ways to sayscar tissue. pariah.there were plenty of us—I still feel sick when I comeeven when it’s my husband.I am called blank look. they beat us,& oftenin certain textbooksthey say the government wantedvirgins to stave off venereal disease.they gave me a modest sum.I walk with a limp.could be anyone—& I am as »
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